On November 5, 1994, at the MGM Grand in Paradise, Nevada, “Big” George Foreman (76-5-0, 68 KOs) squared off against then-undefeated Michael “Double M” Moorer (52-4-1, 40 KOs) for the WBA/IBF/Lineal Heavyweight Championships in a classic bout. Foreman-who grew up in Houston, Texas-was forty-five years old at the time in what seemed a daunting task: facing a slick, fast and powerful undefeated southpaw in the Brooklyn-born-and-raised Moorer, who stood an inch shorter, sixteen years younger and twenty-eight pounds lighter.
Approximately six months prior, Moorer had defeated Evander (“The Real Deal”) Holyfield (44-10-2, 29 KOs) by decision to seize the IBF/WBA straps. While talks swirled about Moorer brawling WBC belt holder Lennox (“The Lion”) Lewis (41-2-1, 32 KOs)-in a match that would have unified the three major heavyweight titles-Moorer eschewed the notion. But Foreman’s resurgent popularity and victorious legal battles (that allowed him to fight Moorer regardless of the governing boxing organizations’ rules regarding mandatory challengers) made Big George’s challenge to Moorer a fait accompli.
When the bell finally rang for the Foreman-Moorer bout, the older Foreman looked every bit his age against the quicker-punching and younger Champion. Moorer subjugated Foreman for seven out of the first nine rounds by landing crisp, searing straight lefts to the head while quickly and efficiently using his legs to avoid getting counterpunched. Foreman, looking bewildered and long in the tooth, valiantly stood up to Moorer’s assault even though his left eye was nearly swollen shut when the tenth round commenced. George’s trainer Angelo Dundee (Muhammad Ali’s legendary former corner man) implored his charge that, to defeat the young buck, Foreman would need a knockout. Meanwhile, Moorer’s trainer (the renowned Teddy Atlas) was sage enough to decipher Foreman’s game plan-to land a spectacular one-punch knockout-and advised Moorer to hasten his aggressive approach.
Moorer continued his onslaught in the decisive tenth round. Foreman’s body shots started landing and, as the round continued, Foreman’s combinations caused a slight chink in Moorer’s armor. With a vicious right punch-one that can barely be seen clearly even after viewing the fight on video afterwards in slow motion-Moorer hit the canvas. His lip split and mouthpiece broken, a staggered Moorer dropped and couldn’t beat the count. George Foreman, at nearly 46 years old (five days from his birthday), became the first man to retake a title not only twenty years after losing it but defeating a fighter nearly twenty years younger.
(Jim Lampley’s comments on HBO when the knockout occurred: “Down goes Moorer on a right hand! An unbelievably close in right-hand shot! It happened! It happened!”)
*As a writer attempting to be objective, I never include personal anecdotes but I enjoy sharing the following story as an aside. I saw Freddie Roach and his entourage after a fight at Honda Center several years ago when Michael Moorer was hired to help train and protect Manny Pacquiao. I asked Moorer for a photo, but was rebuffed until I said, “btw I’m a writer for ESB covering the fight tonight.” He grudgingly turned around and shook my hand. I’m nearly the same height as Moorer but his hand dwarfed mine. He intentionally squeezed my hand hard, just to the point of hurting me, then released and gave me a few sound bites.
It scared the crap out of me.
That grip demonstrated an immense strength I’d never felt before. I briefly thought my hand would be useless until he let go. I like to think I’m a tough guy who can handle pain. But, if he wanted to, Michael Moorer could’ve crushed my fingers into metacarpal dust with a mere handshake. He was one strong, fearsome individual.